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IF WE MUST DIE: African-American Voices on War and Peace. KARIN L. STANFORD, PH.D. INTRODUCTION. If We Must Die is a compilation of the perspectives of African-American leaders, intellectuals, noted figures and average citizens on America’s wars. Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.
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KARIN L. STANFORD, PH.D.
If we must die—
Let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die—oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain;
then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us still be brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but—fighting back!
In the context of this book, If We Must Die reflects similar sentiments; but it also indicates a will to fight for honor, liberty and democracy, even if the cost is death.
A statement by Bishop Henry McNeal Turner during the war in the Philippines exemplifies the Black Nationalist perspective on America’s wars. Bishop McNeal said:
“If this is a white man’s government, and we grant that it is, let him take care of it. The Negro has no flag to defend.” (May 1899)
“ A Demand for the Black Man” (1863)
There is no time to delay. The title is at its flood that leads on to future. From East and West, from North to South, the sky is written all over, “Now or Never.” “Liberty won by white men who would lose half its luster.” “Who would be free themselves must strike the blow.” “Better even die free, than to live slaves.” This is the sentiment of every brave colored man amongst us.
M. W. Saddler, Twenty-Fifth Infantry, (1898)
I wish to call attention to the heroic part the Twenty-fifth United States Infantry played in compelling the surrender of Santiago. We have no reporter in the division and it appears that we are coming up unrepresented…
The Spaniards call us “Negretter Solados” and say there is no use shooting at us, for steel and powder will not stop us. We only hope our brethren will come over and help us to show to the world that rue patriotism is in the minds of the sons of Ham. All we need is leaders of our own race to make war records, so that their names may go down in history as a reward for the price of our precious blood.
We of the colored race have no ordinary interest in the outcome. That which the German power represents today spells death to the aspirations of Negroes and all darker races for equality, freedom and democracy. Let us not hesitate. Let us, while this war lasts, forget our special grievances and close our ranks shoulder to shoulder with our own white fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy. We have no ordinary sacrifice, but we make it gladly and willingly with our eyes lifted to the hills.
What is this crisis? To American Negroes, it is the denial of jobs in Government defense projects. It is racial discrimination in Government departments. It is widespread Jim-Crowism in the armed forces of the Nation. While billions of the taxpayers’ money are being spent for war weapons, Negro workers are being turned away from the gates of factories, mines and mills—being flatly told, “nothing doing.” Some employers refuse to give Negroes jobs when they are without “union cards,” and some unions refuse Negro workers union cards when they are “without jobs.” What shall we do? What a runaround! What a disgrace! What a blow below the belt!
Paul Robeson, Denounce the Korean Intervention, 1950
The meaning of the President's order that the lives of our airmen and sailors must be sacrificed for the government's despicable puppet in Korea shall mot be lost to the millions in the East whose day of freedom is not far off. And it will not be lost to the millions of Americans who must insist louder than ever for peace in the world, for real freedom everywhere, for security and brotherhood. Least of all will the meaning of the President's order be lost to the Negro people. They will know that if we don't stop our armed adventure in Korea today-tomorrow it will be Africa.
Bishop Thomas Dexter Jakes, 2001
I believe [President Bush] deserves our whole support, our complete prayer, and our consecration because we have never been threatened like we are being threatened right now. You’re hearing words like campaign; they’re launching a campaign, which is basically just a nice word for war. And they’re launching a war strategy specifically to protect and defend this country.